Vancouver Island unofficial 'white raven capital'

More white raven sightings

A white raven spotted in the Qualicum Beach-Coombs area this summer is the offspring of traditionally black ravens that have been producing the genetic anomalies for two decades on Vancouver Island, says a noted bird photographer and author.

Mike Yip says the mysterious white ravens are considered leucistic — not albino, which have no pigment at all. These ravens have blue eyes and likely have genetic defects that dilute their natural colour.

“They are a freak of nature,” Yip said.

He hasn’t seen the white raven this year, but has been documenting and photographing the strange corvids since 2007. Although there was a report of a white raven in Haida Gwaii more than 30 years ago, Yip said the central Island birds are unique.

“I’ve declared the region White Raven Capital of the World, and nobody’s disputed it.”

The latest sightings show at least one white raven by itself and with other ravens and some crows.

Lisa Bell, a Qualicum Beach resident, photographed the white raven on the beach last week.

“It came with two crows, landed really close to us and started eating tiny crabs,” said Bell, who took several photos. “He just pecked around and performed for me for about an hour. He wasn’t scared at all.

“It was amazing to watch.”

Scientists say ravens typically live for up to 20 years and mate for life.

They lay up to five eggs each season. Yip believes the mating pair on the central Island have been producing between two and three white ravens a year, along with traditional black ravens.

It isn’t clear how old the mating pair might be or whether there are other pairs with the recessive gene.

Yip said at least two white ravens were hatched last year.

It’s not known whether this year’s sightings involve one bird or several.

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